Cubs Convention Notes: OF, Castro, SP prospects, Stewart, Villanueva

Cubs Convention Notes: OF, Castro, SP prospects, Stewart, Villanueva

I'm not at the convention, so thanks for those who have helped me collect info.  Here is some of the notes I've been able to scribble down so far...

On the outfield...

  • David DeJesus will play CF, according to Dale Sveum.
  • The Cubs are basically done adding this offseason unless some tremendous bargain falls in their lap.  The one area that Jed Hoyer has addressed specifically is the OF depth.  The Cubs biggest need is a CF'er who hits RH and plays defense.  They've brought in Brent Lillibridge and Darnell McDonald as candidates, but that's an obvious area for an upgrade.  Hoyer said he'd like to add an OF'er, but it doesn't mean that there's a deal out there for them.
  • Alfonso Soriano is set in LF and the Cubs veteran likes it that way.

"I want to stay here and finish my career here and try to win before I retire.  I signed here to bring a World Series winner to Chicago. It's been a long time since they won a World Series. That's my dream. I hope to stay here, and when they win, I want to be part of that team."

We've seen this offseason that the Cubs are willing to talk about Soriano, but they aren't about to give him away.  The Cubs value what he brings on and off the field and expect value in return.

  • While Hoyer said he may still add to the OF mix, Dale Sveum is happy with the group they have now.

Starlin Castro

  • The Cubs don't have many players in the WBC but, per Carrie Muskat, one player turned them down in what he called a difficult decision.  Castro was invited to backup Jose Reyes but thought he'd be better off working on his game,

"Every year I want to be better," Castro said on Friday at the Cubs Convention. "Every year, I work hard to be better than I was the year before. That's why I'm working now; that's why I'm not going to the World Baseball Classic. I won't play for the Dominican because it's more important for me to be ready for the [Cubs]. I want to help the [Cubs]."

It's better for me to be working and play every day in Spring Training. If I go, I'd play one day, two days a week. I don't want that. I want to work. It's one of my goals to play for my country, and it's tough for me [to say no]," Castro said. "But it's not the last one. I know I'll be there."

What encourages me about this is that Castro chose the less glamorous route in order to work on his game and help the team.  It speaks to his increasing maturity. I especially like that he knows the WBC will be there for him.  That he has the confidence to delay that gratification is extremely encouraging to me for this growth as a person and a ballplayer.  The kid turns 23 in March.  Maturity may be the only thing keeping him from taking that next step forward.  It's certainly a far cry from last year when Castro put himself in a bad position and wound up battling legal problems all spring.

On Cubs pitching prospects...

  • Randy Bush says the pitching prospect to keep your eye on for 2013 is Nick Struck.
  • Forgotten prospect Dallas Beeler, who was #12 on the BA list last year, has plenty to say.  He lauded the Cubs front office and the info and game-planning strategy they're able to provide. Beeler also said his goal is to make the Hall-of-Fame, saying, "If you're not setting your sights on that as a ballplayer, then what are you doing?"  Got to like the confidence.
  • Robert Whitenack also lauded the Cubs new information/game-planning that is being provided to all pitchers.  As far as his health, he says he's "90-95%" and is starting to feel "normal".

Ian Stewart...

...says he's 100% healthy and feels better than he has in 2 years.  It's a common refrain this time of year, so I'll take that with a grain of salt but there's no doubt the Cubs could use a big rebound from Stewart to have a shot at competing this year.

The Carlos Villanueva signing...

...should be announced today, which means there will be a corresponding move.  The Cubs have already started to lose some useful players from their 40 man roster and it'll be tough to take from a thin outfield and catching core, but the Cubs may have have little choice.  Looking at the pitching corps, you have to think that maybe Lendy Castillo has reason to worry.  Considering the Cubs need for power arms, you'd like to hang on to him.  Hopefully the Cubs can make a trade and resolve the roster issue and pick up some OF depth at the same time, but I'm not holding my breath on that.  It may be Tony Campana (I know I've said that a million times) but the Cubs have plenty of non-roster spring training invitees who could play that 5th OF'er role.

On Welington and Yadier...

Bench coach and former catcher Jamie Quirk said that Welington Castillo is "light years ahead" of where he was last year and has all the physical tools of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.



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  • John - Thanks for this article. Do you have any knowledge of what Whitenack was talking about when he mentioned "the new information/game-planning" the team is doing?

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Can't be certain but I imagine that it has to do with the Cubs new info systems, their version of "Carmine". It's an elaborate system which they gave us a sneak peek at last year. It combines scouting and statistical information, and charts/analyzes what pitches work to what hitters, what works best in what count, situation, etc. Incredible info and very visual and easy to read.

  • Thanks for the information John. The comments from Castro and about Castillo are especially nice to read.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    I've heard the Molina comp earlier in Castillo's minor league career. Kind of nice to see someone from the outside sees it at the MLB level.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe defensively, but offensively Molina and Castillo aren't even close.

    Molina made it to the majors at age 21, and showed good contact skills at every level.

    Castillo's approach has alot of swing and miss; his BABIP last year was .348, with a normalized BABIP he would hit in the .220-.230 range; barely adequate. I am not convinced yet he has the bat to stay a starter in the majors.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    If he hits like he did in the 2nd half last year while continuing to improve on D he has a big time chance. Guys like Posey, Mauer, etc have spoiled us but remember that any offense you get from Catcher is bonus. .240-.270 with 15-20hr for a catcher is borderline All-star level. I believe Castillo has the skillset to do this as does the FO.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The key word here is physical. My guess is Quirk isn't talking about things like contact skills. I'm guessing it's about his arm, his ability to move behind the plate, and perhaps the power. I don't think he was saying he was the same player.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I would also add that the Cubs are impressed with his leadership skills behind the plate.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He has some potential for sure. He has also shown some improvement. But other than pure arm strength, I think any comparison to Molina is just a pipe dream at this point. Let's not forget that it took injuries and terrible play from Soto & Clevenger to get him MLB playing time last year. He may be an average to above average MLB catcher someday, but I'm not ready to anoint him a perennial all-star just yet, which is what Molina is.

  • Yadier is a stud and knows how to win. The only that he cannot do is run fast. Castillo may have the physical tools, but probably not the head, but he may get there.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It's a lofty comparison, especially the intangibles. That could by why they specified "physical" tools. Castillo has a long way to go before he's the kind of player Molina is overall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If Beef ends up being 90% of Molina, Id be thrilled.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    If he can be close to him defensively with 20 HR power, I'll take it. Even if it comes with a .250 batting average.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd like it if Welington can get 125 to 130 starts this year. Having Navarro means we can plug and play him when the need arises. This could be a really good tandem. Certainly an upgrade from last year.

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    Since the 2nd half last year Castillo really started to flash his potential to me. The Molina comp is lofty but not out of reach for him with his skill set. The big thing is can he develop the mental makeup and leadership Molina has. He does have the potential for it as we saw last year when he began taking charge of the staff. If he's anywhere close to Molina that makes him a top 5-10 catcher in the NL, perhaps the league.

    I'll take it. Believe it or not it took Molina a few years in the bigs before a he became a middle-of-the-order bat. In fact, he was seen as a liability offensively in the early going. Castillo seems ahead of him at the same age.

  • Good stuff John. Not sure I see the Castillo/Yadier comparison. Yadier started off as a defence first guy who was great a game caller and at framing and blocking pitches. Castillo offense is way ahead of his skills on D. He's got a strong arm, but still is weak overall at everything else back there. But I would love it if he could be close to Yadier. That guy is so clutch..

  • In reply to Justin:

    Thanks, Justin. My thought is that Castillo was that sort of player at this point last season but he really improved throughout the course of the season. The physical tools are similar, so he should be able to do some of the same things behind the plate. I don't think he'll be as good a hitter as Molina, but he could provide the same kind of power -- perhaps more.

  • Cubs Notes: Villanueva, Marmol, Barney, Draft

    By Zach Links [January 19 at 2:45pm CST]

    Earlier today, Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer, manager Dale Sveum, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein all spoke with the Chicago media. Here's a look at some highlights with all links going to Twitter..
    •Sveum told reporters, including Carrie Muskat of, that the club expects to finalize a deal with Carlos Villanueva today. The hang up, he said, was over clearing a roster spot for the right-hander.
    •However, Bruce Miles of hears that the deal won't be inked today.
    •The deal that would have sent Dan Haren to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol was never a completed deal and Hoyer doesn't understand why the word "botched" was used to describe it, Miles tweets. The trade, which was discussed before the Angels' deadline to exercise Haren's option, was initally reported to be agreed upon but was never finalized.
    •Hoyer said that second baseman Darwin Barney is a part of their long term plans "for sure", tweets Jesse Rogers of The Tigers inquired on the youngster last summer.
    •Epstein said that if the club sees a can't miss position player available at the No. 2 spot in the draft, they may go that route and stockpile pitching later, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.

    0 0


  • In reply to WSorBust:

    code for they have fallen in love with a HS OF .My guess Frazier .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Or maybe they're not in love with any of the pitchers. Or they just don't want to show their hand. Maybe they like 1 of the pitchers and if he's taken they're prepared to shift gears.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Or maybe he was just speaking in generalities for the benefit of the interview, and it didn't mean a thing. I'd like to think that you don't need a decoder ring or parse everything that comes our of the front office. We don't have a chance for Rodon next year and I think they'll get an impact pitcher at #1.

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    In reply to SFToby:

    How do we not have a chance at Rodon?

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Even if they have, it's subject to a lot of things b/n now and the Draft.

  • Though it's always possible that the FO is just commenting positively to build trade value, I like reading that they are that high on Barney. He's a gamer with a history of winning and they could do worse than having him bat eighth and provide stellar defense for the next few years. They seem set at four positions now if they can just find their 3B and outfielders of the future, not to mention some top pitching talent.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    I don't think they are trying to build up his value to trade him or anything. They genuinely like what he brings at his current price. Doesn't mean they won't trade him, but it does mean they value him probably beyond what another team is willing to pay to get him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think that is exactly right, John. They will upgrade any position if possible, but they don't think that improving second base is a high priority with Barney holding it down. The Cubs have gone to great lengths to fill their staff with ground ball pitchers, and that makes infield defense that much more important.

  • Overall, I think the Cubs are doing a good job putting together a solid foundation for the future. Will they win now? Probably not, but I have seen worse teams do some crazy things.

    I have been a Cubs fan for over Forty years and this is the first time I have ever heard this organization talk about building a future. It's always been "this is THE season" or "next year", never putting pieces together for a solid year after year run like the 'effin Cardinals do!

    I told myself, I'm all in and down with any trade or move they make. Trade Sean Marshall, I almost bit through my lip & then realized what good is an ace lefty setup man when your starting pitching is suspect?

    I wan to see the Cubs win!! Not just once like the Sox in '05! Every year be one of those teams that competes and comes out on top.

    I have two boys who love the Cubs too (sorry boys - my fault) and I want them to be going to Wrigley for regular playoff & Series games years from now!

    Go Theo/Jed & Go Cubs!!

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Agreed jaxx! Well said.

    The closest thing I could think of was the "Building a New Tradition" era of Dallas Green, but the suits were too impatient to let it play through, especially after they won in 84.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Forgot about Dallas Green - He was trying to build but, I think ownership was more interested in putting asses in the seats and once that happened & Wrigley became a "destination spot", winning fell by the wayside.

    Man, you had to bring up '84! That one stings! I still have a sheet of World Series tix from that season - Cubs vs AL Champs - never got to use! Not sure if we could have beat the Tigers but I do know we should have never lost to the Padres!

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    That they were. Especially after they got a taste of success. It became more about marketing and getting people to the park.

    A friend of mine from the media once gave me a gift from 1984. An unopened bottle of champagne that says "Celebrate your 1984 Chicago Cubs". She said she wasn't sure if it was reserved for the NL championship or the World Series but that they had boxes of them just in case.

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    In reply to jaxx51:

    I completely agree.

    I've said many times recently that I think its great the team finally got out of "maybe next year" mode.

    It may not be as fun, but "maybe in 3 or 4 years" has a much better chance of success.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    I know exactly what you're saying, jaxx. I'm 64 years old and I go back to the Jack Quinlan/Brickhouse days rooting for the Cubs. I've lived every thrill and have felt every heartbreak to the bottom of my soul. The last one (Marlins series) about did me in. I'm certainly no "entitlement" type of person, but I do think people, especially like you and me, deserve just one chance, if not more, to see this team in the series before our time here is through. I'm allowing myself to exude optimism once again, even though two wives have told me I was going to ruin my health over my emotional ties to the Cubs.

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    May's headlines today: "Ian Stewart blames a wrist that still hasn't fully healed for his slow start..."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Ha! Exactly. Want to see him hit through May/June before I get optimistic.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Give the guy a chance. He could have said "I'm cautious about my wrist" or some such non-answer. Don't knock him for accentuating the positive. If he comes through, our infield is SET.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    For me it's just taking a wait and see look. We'd all love to see Stewart succeed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The "Goal" is not to see only Stewart to succeed, but rather have this entire club succeed in 2013.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Infield "Set" ....with Stewart?

    Someone gave you some bad weed to smoke tonight.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Not funny, Pops, nor constructive.
    Stick to your predictions, they always give us a laff.

  • Reason why Dallas Green left the Cubs was that ownership was against Dallas making John Vuckovich the manager.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I thought the reasaon he left was because some douche bag cared more about the money being made in concessions and other nonesense and no emphasis was being placed on the actual building of the team.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Vuk would have been a good manager for the Cubs

  • Sad to hear that Earl Weaver passed away. At least he went out in style.....on a cruise ship.

    Ports included Cozumel, Grand Caymen, Jamaica and Haiti....

    Orioles players also on the cruise included Scoot McGregor and Bill Swaggerty.......Bill Who?

    There were event on the ship for Orioles fans....One game was called "Win, Lose or Draw"....seems Earl Lost.

    Earl died next to his wife after leaving Haiti earlier in the day........I never knew cruise ships now stop in Haiti.........maybe Earl smoked some special cigarettes the he picked up in Jamaica...Ya Mon!

    I met Earl Weaver one time in Florida.....not once did he call me a S.O.B. in our conversation.........we talked about how the Orioles needed to get the bird face back on the caps....we both agree the current logo sucked........this year, the Orioles bird will be back on the caps.........Earl said "any team can win without superstar position player if that team had good starting pitchers with a deep bullpen.......the hits & runs will come, but your pitchers always need to be on their game"..........then Earl flicked his cigarette and saw I had a Cubs cap on and said "What's the F***** wrong with those Cubbies?".........

    Cruise Ship returns back to Ft. Lauderdale port on Sunday at 7am for all those seeking Bill Swaggerty autograph.

  • First Earl Stan Musial is dead......

    I picked the wrong week of stop sniffing glue.

  • that last comment by Quirk....

    "Welington Castillo is "light years ahead" of where he was last year and has all the physical tools of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina." a very bold statement.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    It is, but if he is indeed "light years ahead", there's a lot of room for optimism for him and the pitching staff he'll be handling.

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    I like Castillo, but I have little faith that he can stay healthy enough to start 120+ games at C...don't think he has done this at any level yet. I also think it may be time to cut Campana loose, if a quality player can be brought back in return. Maybe a Soriano and Campana (sweetener), 26 Mil for Archer and a low prospect...or another option Garza and Campana to Tex for Olt and a low prospect or two.

  • I doubt that many teams would consider Campana much of a sweetener. He probably wouldn't be able to make the 25 man roster of most teams, and couldn't get on the 40 man roster on many good teams. In spite of his amazing speed, he isn't a particularly good center fielder, and hasn't shown the OBA skills to make full time use of his base stealing abilities, which ARE outstanding. But how many teams can afford to keep a player who is essentially a pinch runner, even though he may be the best pinch runner in the game.

  • Dave, I think a playoff caliber team could easily use him as a 5th OF/PR/Def replacement. He has shown, in short stretches, that he can play very well and be a spark plug type guy.

  • Could be, although the only playoff team that I can remember that kept a pure pinch runner on the roster was the old Oakland A'. And that was in the days that teams had 10 man pitching staffs and 7 bench players.

    I know what you mean about being a sparkplug. I get excited when he is on base in a late inning of a close game and gives the opposition fits.I love Campana's speed and his ability to steal bases almost at will, but let's be realistic. The Cubs were the second worst team in baseball, and even THEY are finding it difficult to keep him on the 40 man roster.

    If he could learn to take a walk consistently, he could possibly hang on somewhere, and if he could learn to punch the ball through the infield, he could even be a decent regular. But as he is now, I doubt that there would be many teams that would waste a roster spot on him, let alone give something much in return. I suspect that the Cubs have strongly been trying to trade him to free up the roster spot, and if someone out there really wanted him, he would already be gone.

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